The Migration of Pegrams to Illinois


The first five generations of the PEGRAM family in America lived for most of their lives in two neighboring counties in Virginia, Dinwiddie and Brunswick. Members of the family had become quite wealthy and held prominent positions in society and the political scene. The family wealth had been generated through the operation of tobacco plantations, staffed by large numbers of slaves originally brought from Africa. The initial PEGRAM families had been pioneers in the establishment of an English colony in Colonial America, but by the early 19th Century life in Virginia had become relatively civilized and stable. The challenge of life on the frontier required movement to the north and west, so members of the PEGRAM families began to contemplate different life choices.



On 10 April 1824 Edward PEGRAM [G5] died unexpectedly just after the loss of a large amount of money associated with building a new temple for the local Freemasonry organization. After the death of her husband, Rebecca PEGRAM liquidated the family plantation and moved with her seven children to Mooresville, Limestone County, Alabama to join her brothers. At that time her children would have ranged from newborn to 21 years of age. Nathaniel Harper PEGRAM [G6] would have been 17 years old. He served as a Captain in the Militia in Limestone County, Alabama from 1825 to 1828. It appears that at the time of the 1830 census, he was still living with his mother, 5 of his sisters, and 2 slaves. His mother, Rebecca PEGRAM, would die in Athens, Limestone County, Alabama on 6 May 1850 at the age of 72. At the time of her death all of her children would have married except for the eldest, Mary.


At some point Nathaniel Harper moved to Vicksburg, Mississippi where his cousin, Dr. Thomas HARPER, lived. He must have spent some time in nearby Natchez, for there he met Amanda Elizabeth "Lizzie" KING, an orphan who was born on 6 June 1824 and had been raised by her uncle, Michael John KING. Nathaniel and Amanda were married at Hinds County, Mississippi on 11 Nov 1837. At the time of their marriage he was 31 and she was 14. 


Some time in 1838 Nathaniel and Amanda moved to Greene County, Illinois. Several members of the "Virginia PEGRAM" families had previously moved to this same area, including his uncle William Baker PEGRAM and his cousin, Dr. John Coleman PEGRAM. Nathaniel and Amanda would acquire 500 acres of farm land in Bluffdale Township, 5 miles west of Carrollton, Illinois. At that time there were only four houses in Carrollton. Nathaniel and Amanda would live on that farm for 40+ years and have eleven children:

Nathaniel Harper PEGRAM [G6] was a very successful farmer, splitting his efforts between livestock and grain. He served as a director of the local school district and was elected supervisor for the township government. He would die on 30 September 1889 at age 82. In his will he left the house, furnishings, and 40 acres around the house to his wife, $2000 to each daughter, and the remaining farm land was to be split between his 4 sons. Amanda would die on 8 Dec 1917 at age 91. At her death she had 22 grandchildren, 25 great grandchildren, and 3 great great grandchildren. [Footnote P4-1] Both Nathaniel and Amanda were buried in Richwoods Cemetery, west of Carrollton


Just as the early PEGRAM generations were pioneers in settling the Virginia colonies, the Nathaniel Harper PEGRAM [G6] family members must be considered to be pioneers in clearing and settling a portion of the Illinois plains. Various members of the PEGRAM families made their way into Illinois most likely because of the availability of large tracts of relatively cheap farm land. All of Nathaniel's sons would end up with one or more large farms and Alvin would provide the local infrastructure to collect, store, and distribute grain via the rail connection through Carrollton. Life for farming families in the mid-1800s was difficult and the individuals involved had to be dedicated, thrifty, and strong. 

Edward Benjamin Pegram

Tombstone for Nathaniel Harper and Amanda King PEGRAM

(Richwood Cemetery)


P4-1 Carrollton Gazette Obituary, Wednesday 10 October 1917, Page 1, Carrollton, Illinois